A member of our court reporting community was sent an e-mail soliciting work at $0.60 per audio minute. For contrast, I have heard of reporters working for $100 an audio hour or more, or the equivalent of $1.67 per audio minute, and that was over 10 years ago. It would be about $2.25 per audio minute today, or about $135 per hour, adjusted for inflation.
Many of us would take issue with that kind of an offer, but this stenographer took the opportunity to educate.
The company rep apologized and explained that she was not aware. But the stenographer in question kept educating and advocating. I will note that, based on my knowledge of the industry, I believe there’s a typo here, $35 per minute should likely be $35 per page. For anyone not in the field, typically 40 to 60 pages an hour can be expected, meaning 0.66 to 1 page per minute.
The corporate rep replied honestly. She had no idea about the earning potential of court reporters.
Our brave friend continued to educate on the state of the industry.
To which our company rep closed with:
There are a number of takeaways here. Taking everything at face value, we’re now opened to the possibility that at least some of these company reps are not adequately trained or briefed on the earning potential of court reporters. But it is interesting to note that a company representative is completely aware that AI is not adequate for transcription. It points to a world where we can be drivers of change by simply describing the truth.
It is very unfortunate that companies are diving into the space without an adequate plan to reimburse independently contracted transcribers. But if we can all respond with the above tact and facts when dealing with company reps and transcribers, we can create a shield of information where no one is unknowingly taken advantage of. Not only is speaking up the right thing to do; it will have the desirable effect of increasing job security for stenographic court reporters.
A big thank you for sharing these messages with all of us on Stenonymous.
A reader shared that if one is on the Massachusetts ACT list, they’re paid $3 per page, meaning $0.60 per minute would be a serious reduction in that rate. Even at a highly skilled level, one audio hour can equal one or two transcription hours, meaning that $0.60 a minute is the equivalent of $0.20 a minute or $12 an hour. Unskilled transcribers can take much longer, particularly if the audio quality is bad, meaning their true hourly rate is even lower.
One thought on “What to Say When Offered $0.60 Per Audio Minute”
Thank you for posting this!
To the addendum, yes, a MA ACT’s rate generally translates to $2.50-6.25 per minute, but it’s important to note that those files can be written at realtime speeds if conducted and recorded properly, and they are fielded by a team of helpful court administrators who act as liaisons in gathering case information, assisting with client needs, and delivering clients directly to your business.
In the wild world of freelance transcribing beyond a familiar court contract, though — say, a request to transcribe interrogation or interview tapes, or raw documentary footage — rates should be set on the higher end, as you may encounter any number of issues with the audio quality and conversion, making them more time-consuming on average.
(And the $35/minute rate is real; there’s a high-end market for that, similar to technical realtime depos.)
Bottom line: even at the lowest MA rate (the equivalent of $2.25/minute), if you’re paying someone who is 10% as skilled to work on something potentially much more unwieldy at 25% of the going rate, it’s easy to see how not only is subcontracting for most transcription companies not a viable career, but it can’t even qualify as a side hustle.
And when the job pays that poorly, how much effort and time do you think a transcriber can afford to put into the quality of their work? The bare minimum. And when their name isn’t even on the final product and there’s no margin to hire proofreaders, there’s neither the incentive nor means to make a name for themselves through quality work.
Most stenographers seem to be averse to transcribing prerecorded audio as opposed to working live, but our clients do at times need things transcribed, and with certain controls in place it can be a perfectly fine niche for skilled writers to inhabit. In other words, there is a way to perform that work ethically and to everyone’s mutual satisfaction.
The more we know about how transcription contracts should be structured, the more we can do to educate and advocate for an end to unethical practices in the transcription sector. At the same time that we’re trying to make sure people know about stenography, let’s not forget to raise awareness about single moms getting duped into transcribing for $4.50 an hour.